Hornady’s .357 Magnum Critical Defense Load – Quick Ammo Review

Combine the legendary stopping power of the .357 Magnum with modern bullet design and you can potentially create an amazingly effective self-defense round. That seems to be exactly what Hornady had in mind when it developed the Critical Defense load chambered for the classic Magnum.


Hornady’s New .32 H&R Magnum Critical Defense Load

Hornady .32 H&R Magnum Ammo

The Critical Defense .32 H&R Magnum is another self defense load announced by Hornady at the 2012 NASGW show last week.  Designed for any revolver chambered for the .32 H&R Magnum, the ammunition performs equally as well in .327 Federal Magnum revolvers also.

This load uses an 80 grain FTX bullet.  The FTX bullet is a polymer tipped hollowpoint that has proven to be very successful in both self defense and hunting applications.  A friend who uses the Hornady Leverevolution .30-30 ammo with an FTX bullet tells me the wound channel they create is unbelievable.  These rounds use the same bullet technology.

Hornady .32 H&R Magnum Ammunition

Velocity is listed as 1150 fps at the muzzle.  I did not see what kind of barrel was used, but I suspect it was a 4″ test barrel based on other Hornady tests.  So, if you have a shorter barrel gun, expect less velocity.  At 1150 fps, the bullet generates 235 ft-lbs of energy.


Hornady .38 Special Critical Defense Lite Ammo

Critical Defense Recoil

For 2013, Hornady is introducing a reduced recoil .38 Special load in the Critical Defense line of ammunition.  The Critical Defense Lite is a light weight .38 load loaded to standard pressures specifically designed to minimize abuse to the shooters of small, light revolvers.

Seemingly everyone carries a snub nose revolver in their pocket.  I’ve got a J-frame Smith & Wesson in mine as I write this.  They are easy to carry and have numerous advantages when compared to other guns and style of carry.  But, small revolvers carry at least one significant disadvantage:  recoil.  That’s where the Critical Defense Lite comes into play.


Critical Defense .32 NAA Ammo

Ammo for the .32 NAA has been very limited, with very few companies loading for the niche cartridge. However, Hornady is expanding their Critical Defense line of ammunition to include a .32 NAA load.

The new .32 NAA ammo will feature the Hornady FTX bullet, which is a hollowpoint tipped with a polymer insert. The polymer helps to prevent hard materials from clogging up the hollowpoint cavity, and also helps the bullet expand when encountering flesh. The FTX design has proved to be both effective and popular.


Hornady Expands Critical Defense Line of Ammunition

Hornady announced three new loads in the Critical Defense line of ammunition:  .357 Magnum, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.  Refer to the chart for specific loading information:


Claiming to be the “pinnacle in self defense ammunition,” Hornady lists the following benefits of the Critical Defense line of ammunition:

  • Unaffected by thick and heavy clothing, including denim and leather.
  • FTX bullet delivers superior controlled expansion and large, deep wound cavities over a wide range of velocities.
  • Clean burning and stable propellants reduce recoil in lightweight handguns, and perform consistently in all temperatures.
  • Minimal muzzle flash protects night vision.
  • Feeds reliably in pistols.
  • Shiny silver nickel plating prevents corrosion, and is easily visible in low light situations.
  • Bullets are cannelured and crimped to avoid bullet setback.
  • Bullets are custom designed for individual loads.
  • The most effective, consistent, and reliable self-defense ammunition available today.


The Critical Defense line of ammunition has proved to be a solid performer, and the line has expanded even more to include such calibers as the 9×18 Makarov and the .22 WMR.  The performance of the FTX bullets that Hornady loads in these rounds is excellent across a wide range of velocities and the loads are very reliable in many different firearms.  Without a doubt, this line of ammunition is a real winner for the company.

Since the original introduction of these rounds, Hornady has also started a parallel line of ammo products called the Critical Duty line.  The Critical Duty line of ammunition is designed for greater penetration and is marketed to law enforcement agencies.  It meets all of the FBI testing protocols and offers the same reliable expansion and performance that people have come to expect from Hornady and the Critical Defense line.  These rounds are all exceptional performers and do very well for anyone looking to defend themselves from a violent assault or attack on their person or on their family.  Two thumbs up, so to speak.